After what feels like an eternity, the Premier League returns this weekend after the two-week long international break. It is time to forget about yet another underwhelming effort from England and reunite with some old friends.
Game of the Week
QPR vs Chelsea
Unfortunately, this weekend’s fixtures does not offer us any can’t miss match ups, so after the feisty meeting between these two teams at Loftus Road last season, this game will have to do.
This fixture last season turned out to be one of the most controversial matches of the entire season. It featured two red cards for Chelsea and some less than complimentary comments aimed at QPR’s Anton Ferdinand by John Terry that saw the deposed England captain dragged through a ridiculous circus court case.
In the build-up to this game, some of QPR’s players have held super not so secret meetings to decide if they will shake the hand of Terry and the man who defended his name in court, Ashley Cole, thereby refusing to take the moral high ground and looking like petulant children. Only further adding some spice to a Derby game that perhaps didn’t need it anyway.
On the pitch itself, Chelsea have started the season strongly, picking up maximum points from the first three games, with £32million Belgian superstar in the making Eden Hazard taking centre stage, wowing English audiences with his wizardry and assist making. Fernando Torres is starting to look more and more like the world-class striker who terrorised defences during his spell at Liverpool, and Frank Lampard continues to do what Frank Lampard does best.
Chelsea’s defence remains a question mark, with the performance of goalkeeper Petr Cech remaining a bit of a worry. So far this season, the aging legend has looked a pale imitation of his once, indomitable self. So far, this defence has not found itself under too much pressure through the opening month of the season, but Reading showed that, when put under pressure, there are goals to be had. If Wigan weren’t so wasteful on the opening weekend, they could have had a hatful themselves.
QPR however, should not provide too much trouble for the marauding Chelsea buccaneers. Their defence has been nothing short of abysmal, and centre back promises to be a revolving door this season. Stephane Mbia is a shrewd buy from Marseille, but everyone else around him is utterly awful. Julio Cesar is a massive upgrade from Rob Green between the posts – well a pumpkin would be a massive upgrade from Rob Green – but there is a reason Inter were willing to let him leave for nothing whilst continuing to subsidize his wages, he is a keeper on the downside of his career.
Let’s face it, trying to predict who will play in midfield and attack for QPR this week is more difficult than trying to predict the winning Lottery numbers. It feels as if Mark Hughes has a small army at his disposal to fill these positions. Chemistry may prove to be an issue as a continual stream of new faces poured in over the summer.
QPR 1-4 Chelsea
The only thing predictable about the beautiful game, is its unpredictability, and a QPR win or even a point is not entirely out of the question, especially with the 12th man on their side, and plenty of motivation to get one over Chelsea. But ultimately, defensive shortcomings and Hazard/Torres will prove too much for the Premier League’s worst defence to handle.
10 Things to Look Out For
1) Transfer deadline day feels like a million years ago, yet all those players signed on that wild night have to yet make their debuts. This weekend will provide us with our first opportunities to see players such as Maicon, Owen and Dempsey all turning out for their new sides.
2) Manchester United have managed to pick up 6 points from their first 3 games, without ever looking entirely convincing. This weekend provides a gimme match at home to Wigan Athletic. This is a golden opportunity for United to finally turn in a noteworthy performance and stake their claim as serious title contenders. A clean sheet and a couple of goals will go a long way to improving confidence in both a defence and attack that has not looked right at all so far this season.
3) Champions Manchester City travel to Stoke this weekend, to play a team they have never beaten at the Britannia during the Mancini years. City have always struggled to cope with the strong-arm tactics and direct approach of Tony Pulis’ men and barely escaped with a 1-1 draw last season. Javi Garcia should debut this weekend, and he should go a long way in helping City compete. He has been described as an absolute monster by some at the club, and he will relish the challenge. He is a name to look out for this weekend.
4) Several days removed from the quite incredible and scandalous findings from the HIP, I’m very curious to see how Liverpool reacts on the pitch. A trip to Sunderland is tough on any given weekend, and I’m very interested to see how the sheer emotion of this week has impacted the team, who have been quite awful so far this season.
5) Southampton’s difficult start to life back in the Premier League continues with a trip to Arsenal. The Saints will now have faced last season’s top three inside the opening four games. Yet the Saints equipped themselves brilliantly against the two Manchester titans. Can they again scare a member of the top four?
6) West Ham were absolutely fantastic against Fulham before the break, with Andy Carroll proving to be untouchable in a 3-0 win. But Carroll is injured and will miss their trip to Norwich. Can West Ham prove they aren’t going to be a one man band this season and win what promises to be a tough away game?
7) Christian Benteke, Villa fans turn their lonely eyes to you. The club’s one splurge during the transfer window, costing a mighty £7million, is a 21-year-old Belgian (Belgian is the new Brazilian) striker who averaged a goal every two games for Genk in the Jupiler League. Villa fans will be hoping he is not another Bosko Balaban incarnate, the team cannot afford him to fail, and the cupboard is bare! Expect him to debut at home against in form Swansea this weekend.
8) As for Swansea themselves, they have impressed mightily this season under the stewardship of Michael Laudrup, but their opening schedule hasn’t exactly tested them to the limits. They should brush aside Villa with confident impudence and continue to stake their claim as early Europa League (everyone’s favourite competition) challengers.
9) Tottenham’s winnable two home games against West Brom and Norwich rather predictably saw them pick up only two points, but that was an improvement over the same games last season, when, under ‘Arry, Spurs managed just one point. Can the already under fire AVB finally get that long elusive first win at Reading? If he doesn’t, the notoriously hard to please Spurs fans will not be best pleased.
10) Everton vs Newcastle, Monday Night Football. Everton came out the blocks firing on all cylinders for a change, beating Man United, before being beaten comfortably defeated by West Brom. Newcastle were roundly beaten by Chelsea last time out. This game has draw written all over it. What I will be looking for is Papiss Cisse, has he been playing this season?
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